West Oakland Health Council announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Erika Simpson Akpawu as Chief Executive Officer effective immediately. Erika previously held the position of Chief Operating Officer within the agency. Since joining WOHC in 2019, Erika has provided day-to-day leadership and management of multiple clinical and non-clinical departments. Erika spearheaded WOHC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic including setting up a community-testing site, a patient/community vaccination rollout, and a Case Investigation/Contact Tracing operation in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department. She has made strides in re-establishing and building connections with community partners and the faith-based community.
Erika Simpson-Akpawu is a proud native of East Palo Alto, CA where she grew up in a multi-cultural family and attended African-centered schools. She is the product of an immigrant and professional dancer from Colombia South America and an African American Bay Area resident and master drummer. As a child of stellar performing artists and a student of well-rounded cultural academia, Erika was afforded a rich cultural upbringing bearing witness to the importance of preserving culture. She was groomed for leadership roles as one of the founding members of the Leadership Training Academy, a youth leadership development program with the mission to develop grassroots leaders of color from urban communities equipped with the tools, experience, skills, and compassion to lead within their community and abroad. In addition, she naturally followed her parent’s footsteps in the arts and has been a longtime member of the African Dance community in Oakland and was a professional dancer with Oakland-based cultural and performing arts organization, Fua Dia Congo, founded by pioneering master artist Malonga Casquelourd.
Erika was inspired to career in healthcare by her mother who passed away of breast cancer at the young age
of 46. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from Howard University, Washington, DC. Erika’s
early post-graduate career in health led her to the Community Breast Health Project in Palo Alto (currently Bay
Area Cancer Connections), where her mother previously received advice and care regarding her cancer
diagnosis. There, she worked as an interpreter and advocate for women under 40 to receive breast cancer
screening and diagnostic services.
Her growth and success working in community health advanced her to a position at Ravenswood Family
Health Network in 2003. Over the course of 15 years, Erika was promoted and held various leadership
positions contributing to the growth and success of the new community health center that ultimately achieved
over 55,000 patient visits annually. She oversaw the formalization of the clinic’s Chronic Disease Management
program, established and managed their neighboring health center satellite clinic, was the main instrument
behind their community volunteer program, and assured culturally and linguistically competent services for
their diverse multi-lingual community members.
Erika earned a master’s degree in Public Health from Touro University in Vallejo, CA. Her academic and career
advancement studies included a 3-month global public health capstone project in Ethiopia that focused on
researching contraception use amongst college-age women and completing an executive leadership program
through the UCSF’s Clinic Leadership Institute.
Erika currently resides in Oakland, CA with her husband and 4 children. She is fluent in English and Spanish
enabling her to communicate effectively within the primarily Black and Brown communities she serves. Erika’s
volunteer experience includes several years of working with underserved youth promoting and teaching
leadership and community activism, and mentoring young girls through a rite of passage program, Ase
Institute, of Oakland CA. Her passion for promoting health equity and social justice in underserved
communities allowed her to be selected as the first recipient of the Geiger Gibson “Emerging Leader” award
from George Washington University.
We are pleased Erika accepted our offer to lead WOHC through our next period of growth. She says, “I am
honored to accept the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer of West Oakland Health Council, and I accept the
responsibility with enthusiasm and confidence. I believe in the incredible strength and value of our community
presence and the services we provide, but most of all our relationship with our patients and partners.”
Erika succeeds Preston DuFauchard, who resigned at the end of August 2021 to pursue other interests.
Preston, who previously served on the Board of Directors for West Oakland Health Council, has served as CEO
for the past three years. Preston stepped in the interim to ensure the agency maintained its collective focus
on stability, continuity, and working as hard as possible to minimize disruptions for our patients, employees,
and daily operations during our prior leadership transition. In this interim period, he has helped reposition
West Oakland Health Council financially and increased visibility with the communities the health center
Join the WOHC Board of Directors in welcoming Erika to her new role. The Board believes the WOHC is at a
critical moment and renewed leadership will drive the organization’s success with implementing new
strategies to reach operational excellence and to be a successful advocate for underserved and neglected
West Oakland Health Council’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of the communities it serves by
providing the highest quality of health care and treatment for its diverse patient population throughout
Alameda County. Fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, four AfricanAmerican mothers launched the West Oakland Health Council. The clinic became a spark that led to a
transformation in health care advocacy in California and the nation. Today the West Oakland Health Council
has an impact throughout the East Bay, with four clinic sites, one in Berkeley, one in West Oakland, and two in
East Oakland. The services provided included adult and family medicine, pediatric health care, dental care,
optometry, podiatry, behavioral health services, and pharmacies at two locations.